Professor Joseph Mbaiwa of the Maun based Okavango Research Institute has questioned why people accused of mismanagement of funds at Community Trusts have never been prosecuted. Speaking at the Ngamiland Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) meeting in Maun Thursday, Mbaiwa noted that despite numerous reports of funds mismanagement at Community Trusts, none of the offenders have ever been called for disciplinary action. This is despite the District Commissioner’s office having claimed to have received such complaints.
According to Mbaiwa, this situation led to the DC’s office taking over full administration of funds, all of which are now kept in a holding account.
“This now defeats the whole purpose of CBNRM and their process of managing their own funds. It must be noted that income generation by CBNRM is one of the measures of livelihoods at a household and community level. Also financial benefits are some of the major economic benefits that villages derive from CBNRM projects, but as it stands now the livelihoods of communities which have CBNRM projects have been disadvantaged by the new development because now the revenue generated is managed by a different organisation,” he said.
Before takeover by the DC’s office, communities were able to fund social services and related community development projects such as water reticulation, installation of standpipes, sporting activities and many others which Mbaiwa says should have been carried out by the government. He is also of the view that had government not suspended hunting; communities would not be suffering as is the case currently.
“I also have the same opinion about the bad that comes with illegal hunting, and I don’t think it is good for communities, nor it good for Botswana as a whole, but there are other concessions where incidents of poaching have not been reported,” said Mbaiwa.
Meanwhile representatives of Community Based Organisations lament that they do not feel empowered over their natural resources. Another issue of concern was that apart from their funds being managed by the DC’s office, they have been made to suffer yet another blow as government has also taken control of head leases. They suggested that due to the increase in some wildlife species based on the 2010 Chase report as well as the Department of Wildlife and National Parks census of 2012, they should be allowed to hunt those animals as they are the most dangerous and most destructive.
In response, Principal District Officer (Development) Mogomotsi Ramodisa said working relationships between his office and community trusts will be strengthened as all of them are partners in conservation. He stated that some community trusts are doing well, adding that trust managers should constantly advice the board on issues of concern, amongst them empowering communities on entrepreneurial skills.